Title: White Magic
Author: Elissa Washuta
Published April 27th 2021 by Tin House Books
Genre: Essays, Non-fiction, Feminism
“Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning.
In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life—Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham—to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.” –Goodreads
If you know me, I do not read a lot of non-fiction. But my super great reader friend had this book with her when we went out to read once. I asked her about it and instantly I was intrigued. It is about Elissa Washuta, a Cowlitz woman. The Cowlitz tribe is a tribe from my home state and the tribe of the aforementioned friend. So I ran to the Barnes and Nobles and picked it up.
First off, this book was amazing. The writing was spectacular. The design of the book was beautiful.
But I just didn’t get it.
Like the ending wasn’t a clear cut answer to any of her questions. The reader was left at the ending with the same feeling of despair and dissolution as the author was at the end of her essays.
I really liked it, but also really liked it. As a fiction reader, I am so used to stories with tied up endings. But this had ended with the authors feelings when she decided to finish the story.
It reminded me of the Bo Burnham Inside special. It was a lot of upbeat(sorta) moments in the beginning and than slowly spirals into all out despair and desolation.
We, as readers, saw the murky insides of Washuta and her feelings as she combats her feelings about life and her relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
I think it was a super raw and emotional book. I should warn people that there are a lot of triggers in this book. There is talk of r*pe, abuse, racism, alcoholism, and other things. I definitely had to put it down a few times because of how heavy the topics were. It is still really eye-opening for people who do not struggle with some of these issues.
Along with the heavy topics, Washuta adds in pieces of Native culture like lore and stories about her ancestors. This illuminated some of the Native history in my own home state which is lacking in most formal education systems.
I really liked meeting Elissa Washuta through the pages. I found some of the stories she told to be relatable. It illuminated some things about my own life, past and present, that I decided I needed to change or became grateful for the change. I am pretty sure this book is the reason I reach out to my therapist again.
Please go check this book out. It is important to me to support Native culture and Native authors. I think this book deserves a lot of recognition.
As always, thanks for reading,
Star Rating: 4.0